A group of researchers from the Harvard University Wyss Institute and the Massachusets Institute of Technology Computer Science Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, or MIT CSAIL have developed a robot gripper that uses a 3D printed origami structure to lift up to 100 times its own weight. Using a unique design for a robotic hand, their robot is able to pick up a wide variety of objects – such as soup cans, hammers, wine glasses, drones, and even a single broccoli floret.
The cone-shaped, hollow, and vacuum-powered device was inspired by the “origami magic ball” and comprises three parts: a 3D printed, 16-piece silicone rubber skeleton, the airtight skin to encase the structure, and the connector. The structure collapses around an object in a similar way to how a Venus flytrap works: a vacuum collapses the gripper which then closes around the object functioning like a stronghold grasp. The soft robot gripper can adapt to the shape of whatever it’s grabbing without compromising its strength.
“One of the key features of this approach to manipulator construction is its simplicity,” says Robert Wood, co-author and Professor at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. “The materials and fabrication strategies used allow us to rapidly prototype new grippers, customized to object or environment as needed.”
The team mounted the gripper on a standard robot to test its strength on different objects. The gripper managed to grasp and lift objects 70 percent of its diameter and up to 120 times its weight without damaging them. It could also pick up bottles weighing over four pounds.
The robot currently works best with cylindrical objects like bottles or cans, according to Shuguang Li, a joint postdoctoral student at MIT CSAIL and Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).
“Companies like Amazon and JD want to be able to pick up a wider array of delicate or irregular-shaped objects, but can’t with finger-based and suction-cup grippers,” Li said. “Suction-cups can’t pick up anything with holes — and they’d need something much stronger than a soft-finger-based gripper.”
There’s still room for improvement as the robotic origami hand still has some limitations. Based on its mechanism, it may encounter problems lifting flat objects like books. In the future, the team hopes to add a computer vision system that would allow the gripper to “see” what it’s doing, making it possible to grasp specific parts of objects. They also plan to experiment with varying angles of approach for target objects.
“This is a very clever device that uses the power of 3-D printing, a vacuum, and soft robotics to approach the problem of grasping in a whole new way,” Michael Wehner, an assistant professor of robotics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said. “In the coming years, I could imagine seeing soft robots gentle and dexterous enough to pick a rose, yet strong enough to safely lift a hospital patient.”
SOURCE: 3ders site